You just prayed asking Jesus to forgive your sins and made Him your Lord and Savior. What comes next? Here’s my letter to a new believer:
Today the angels in heaven are celebrating over you and your new spiritual birth. You have asked for and been given the free gift of immortal life with God. There are so many things I want to share with you but I don’t want to overwhelm you. You have all of eternity now to explore and learn about our amazing loving Father in heaven. With that in mind, I’m going to just share with you some things to start with, knowing that the Holy Spirit will lead you from there.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. — Jesus, in John 14:2 KJV
A lot of what I’m going to share with you is from the Bible: a huge, amazing book that is really made up of 66 separate books by different authors and includes poetry, song, prophecy, history, allegory, proverbs, and wisdom for living a life with God.
Bible Reading and Prayer
The books of the Bible were written over a period of hundreds of years by many different authors: prophets, kings, fishermen, and even a tax collector. One thing to remember is that the translation of the Bible into English is taken very seriously by scholars. The major versions of the Bible such as the NIV, ESV, and KJV have all been translated directly from the original languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into English and other languages. The criticism that you may have heard, that the Bible has been translated many times through many different languages, is not actually true. There is only one step: from the original languages to the target language.
As you probably know, the Bible is quite a large book. Most people recommend that you start reading the gospels, which are the first four books of the New Testament. They contain the account of Jesus’ life and his plan for the salvation of humanity. Within the gospels (the word actually means “good news”) the most common starting place is the book of John, which gives a good introduction to Jesus’ life and purpose here. You will see Jesus referred to in many ways; one way is as Christ, which comes from the Greek and means the anointed one. The name Jesus is an English transliteration of Yeshua, from the Hebrew name which means savior.
Remember that although the words of God are in the Bible, God himself wants to be a Father to you and have a relationship with you — and so we pray. Prayer can be done at any time and it is simply talking to God. There are different types of prayer, common categories include: praise, confession of sins, thanksgiving, and requests. Talk to God whenever and wherever you want, and don’t feel bound by any rules or specific prayers. Don’t just talk — listen as well; God can speak in many different ways. The more you listen the more you will learn to know his voice.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. — Philippians 4:6 KJV
Salvation and Grace
The word salvation simply means God’s plan to save humanity from death brought about by corruption. When the first “sin” was committed, it brought corruption into the world and, as a consequence, death. Humans then needed to have this corruption washed away to be made pure again and have the sentence of eternal death taken away. Christ came to pay the price, to take our death penalty — not just for one person, but for all people. His pure blood was shed as an offering and he took our punishment willingly because of the great plan of God set before him — saving the children of God.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! — Philippians 2:8 ESV
It is hard to conceive how God could love us so much that he would send his Son to die for us, and it is also very difficult for humans to understand the concept of grace. Grace is “unmerited favor,” meaning we did not earn it. There is nothing we can do or could have done to make ourselves pure and save ourselves from the death sentence of sin. God gave it willingly and it is only required of us to accept this free gift. Just as this gift was given freely by God, it will not be taken away from us for our future failures. In fact, our past, present, and even future sin is all completely covered by the divine sacrifice of Jesus. You need not have any fear of God anymore or his judgment. We are perfectly clean and spotless in his sight thanks to grace.
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. — Romans 3:22-24 ESV
An important thing to remember about salvation and grace is it has happened to you now. It’s not just something that happens so that when you die you spend eternity with God — your time with God starts now! You can experience healing, wholeness, and peace from this day onward. Yes, there are struggles in life, but Jesus is always with you.
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. — John 14:27 NLT
Sin and Christian Terminology
Unfortunately, the word “sin” has been used for decades as a bludgeon of guilt to believers and non-believers alike. There are actually two words commonly translated as sin in the bible. One means to “give offense” and the other to “miss the mark”. The reason God talks about sin is that it is the corruption of his perfect plan and it causes death. There are many times in life that, due to our imperfection, we do not live up to the standard of the goodness of God. Personally, I believe that sometimes this is the result of intentional evil or selfishness, and sometimes it is simply the fact that we are human with all of our weaknesses. Even when we wish to do good, we sometimes fail. There are two important things I would tell you about sin. First, is that it is fully taken care of now and you face no judgment for it.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. — Romans 8:1-2 ESV
You now have the Holy Spirit in you after accepting Christ! You are no longer condemned by God; things have been made right and you are now in God’s family and perfectly reconciled to him.
Second, I would tell you that everyone has sin; no one is perfect. We should remember that those who do not know God are just like we were in the past. We are not “better” than others because we know Christ, we have no place to look down on anyone or judge them. In humility, we should consider that it was only God’s grace that saved us.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. — Ephesians 2:8 ESV
There are also a lot of other terms and concepts that exist in the modern English-speaking church. If you’re around some other believers and you’re not sure what a term means, just ask! Just remember to ask someone you trust to be gentle and loving with you. Other believers are your brothers and sisters now, but you can choose which of them will be your teachers.
Besides prayer and reading the Bible, there are two things that Jesus taught us to do in the New Testament. First is baptism. Baptism is a symbolic act where we are immersed in water and then come up from it. This act symbolizes being buried with him in his death and then being raised again to new life.
Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. — Colossians 2:12 ESV
Usually, baptism is referred to as an “outward symbol” of an “inward decision”. Christians are baptized once when they first accept Christ.
The other practice Jesus gave us is communion. It is a continual reminder of what he did for us at the cross.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body. Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” — Matthew 26:26-28 ESV
Many churches practice communion monthly. It is a continual practice and reminder of what Jesus has done for us. I encourage you to take it soon and often.
The Church is Not Perfect
Throughout history, many evil things have been done in the name of God and his son. The Christian church has had its share of failings. Those of us in the church should always remember this. We can, in humility, admit that the church has done evil things. God himself is good, but his children on earth are still able to sin. Not only that, many falsely proclaim to be Christians who are not. The consequences of this are that the world, and especially America, often sees the church in an unfavorable light. We should not only humbly admit the mistakes of the church to others but also our own faults. Believers need God and his goodness. We glorify Him when we say that we need him and his forgiveness. We do not always act perfectly in this life.
More on the topic of the church:
- What Kind of Church Welcomes Those with Depression?
- When Is It Okay To Leave My Church?
- The Church Just Wants My Money
Relationship not Rules
A mistake that is often made with new believers is piling them up with a big list of rules to keep. Often we do this right after we have told them that salvation is not about our own efforts at all. It’s confusing at best, and a great burden at its worst. Jesus himself had some words to say for the “rule-masters” of Israel, the Pharisees.
They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. — Matthew 23:4 NLT
Jesus himself said this to his followers:
For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. — Matthew 11:30 NLT
Your new life with God should begin with an easing of burdens and a new freedom in the awareness that you are free from sin and death. Yes, there are reasons to do what is good and as Christians, we should seek to be like God. This is done out of love and relationship with him, not because we are afraid of condemnation or attempting to earn salvation.
Right now, at this moment, you have the best thing in the universe. You have a relationship with God, who has said he is your Father. God thinks so highly of you that He calls you His child. There is nothing more to fear in this life. Joyfully explore your new relationship and the experiences that come with it. Through this, you will learn God’s heart and love to be like him.
Be at Peace
This is only the beginning of the most epic journey of your life. There will be so much to learn and experience; don’t worry about trying to take everything in at once. You now have the Spirit to guide you. Certainly, there are a lot of things that you don’t know. But take heart, after decades of being a Christian there are still a lot of things I don’t know. It’s okay not to have all the answers. As Christians we are not required to be experts, we are just called to know God our Father. Start looking around for God in every area of your life, every day. He is there and part of everything in the universe.
He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. — Colossians 1:17 NLT
Now it is time to find some other believers to be in community with. Pray, read the Bible, become baptized, and have communion in community with your new family. Most of all it is time to experience and get to know our God, the Father, and Jesus, his Son.